Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pitarresi: Harris hopes to shock the world

Paul Harris says he is going to shock the world.


I hope he does.


Harris is working out in Chicago with former Niagara Falls High School and Syracuse University teammate Jonny Flynn in anticipation of next month’s NBA draft. Flynn is all but assured of being picked, probably midway or late in the first round. Harris, who many people thought would be a pro after just a year at SU, is much less likely to be chosen.


Except, he doesn’t agree, and he means to show all the experts he is capable of playing basketball at the highest level.


It is difficult not to be impressed with Harris when you first see him. At 6-feet-4 and 220 pounds, he is a sculpted physical specimen. He’s fast, he can jump, he’s aggressive, he’s creative, he has an electric crossover dribble and baseline reverse, and he has about the best nose for the ball of any basketball player you’ve ever seen.


In the open court, Harris is a killer. His strengths play right into the running game. He’s much tamer when a game breaks down to half court. He has a tough time getting inside, at least against the taller, athletic big men in the Big East, and, while he can hit the mid-range jumper, his 3-point skills are a long way from where they need to be, especially since there is just one position he can play in the pros – shooting guard.


We read that Harris’ confidence is returning after an up-and-down three-year career at SU, when he sometimes appeared to be coach Jim Boeheim’s whipping boy. And he has a shooting coach, former Canisius player Tim Sullivan, who really has helped him develop some range and skill in that department.


I know Harris has had some behavior issues going back a ways – I know about one incident on a pretty personal level – but in three years of dealing with him I never found him to be anything but honest and forthright and more than willing to accept responsibility when things went wrong. I think maybe he learned a few things in his time with the Orange, whether it was a good experience or not, and has grown up a bit.


So, again, I hope he does shock the world.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pitarresi: James, Howard pretty impressive

I got my first extended look of the year at an NBA playoff game last night, Cleveland at Orlando.


I enjoyed the action, which surprised the heck out of me, because I haven’t watched pro basketball with much interest in a long time.


I’ve seen Cleveland’s LeBron James play many times, but last night I really watched him closely. I’m just stunned that a guy with that frame – that long and that wide – can move the way he can. Very impressive. However, last night anyway, he had his hands on the ball way too much, and he tried – or had to – do too much, which led to some turnovers and questionable shots that made a big difference in a very close game.


Still, the guy is outrageous.


So is Orlando’s Dwight Howard, with the physique designed by Michelangelo.


These guys are stunning. Watching them last night, I gained a bit more appreciation for the pro game. Not so much that I think I’d ever prefer it to college ball, but a bit more.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pitarresi: Danica should just drive the car

Sunday is the Indianapolis 500, which brings up Danica Patrick.


I’m not one of those who puts down Patrick because “she’s never won anything.” Patrick is obviously a very, very good race car driver, and if she hasn’t won Indy yet, she’s got some time to work on it. She finished fourth the first time she raced there, and she’s just 27 now. A lot of great drivers had to wait a long time to win there, and many never did.


No, I’m one of those who puts down Patrick because of her tendency to disrobe at a moments notice for Sports Illustrated. Playboy, and the multitude of soft porn magazines that pretend to be dedicated to men’s health, recreation and other interests but are really just … soft porn.


Is Patrick an attractive woman? I’d say so, but I don’t think she is particularly sexy. Maybe you do. And I think she has an unfortunate habit of coming up with questionable poses, some that push the limits of poor taste out there quite a ways.


But that is beside the point. Patrick is free to peddle her wares anyway she likes, but I think she diminishes herself when she adopts her sexy model persona. She’s a race car driver. If she wasn’t a race car driver, she’d never have been asked to pose for any of these magazines. Appearing as a bathing beauty or whatever does nothing to add to her credibility as a driver, and probably detracts from it. Why she feels she has to do this is beyond me. To maximize her marketability? I guess, but, geez, have some dignity.


 Can you be more than one thing, like maybe a sportswriter and an underwear model? Of course. No one says you can’t, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. The race car driver/pin-up model combination doesn’t work. It just comes across as cheap and tawdry – Patrick is the only athlete I recall ever displaying her butt crack in SI; very cheesy  - and pretty sad.


I had similar feelings about former Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, who now is – or maybe was – a model. I didn’t begrudge Beard her new career – remember, she was done swimming, or was supposed to be – but like Patrick she has a liking to pose in ways that go beyond alluring to past tacky. It might make her popular with the frat boys, but it overshadow her significant accomplishments as an athlete.


So, drive the car Danica, do your best, and let the results do the talking.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pitarresi: No Hall of Induction is a loss


There will be no National Distance Running Hall of Fame induction this year, the day before the 32nd annual Utica Boilermaker Road Race.


This was not unexpected. Tim Reed, the executive director of the race, which has financed the induction in the past, had said months ago he was considering pulling the plug for this year, largely because of the economy.


And it’s not like it is something new. This is the third time in six years that the inductions have been cancelled.


Clearly, the Hall of Fame is a drain on the Boilermaker, and clearly the Hall of Fame needs a reliable funding base. If one does not materialize, the organization is in danger of collapsing. I suppose you can have a Hall of Fame that has an induction every other year, but you can’t have one that doesn’t know if it is going to have an induction from one year to the next.


Founded in 1998, the National Distance Running Hall of Fame is a great idea. I never expected it to be a destination, like the baseball, basketball and football halls, but something of a centerpiece to help to honor the great distance runners of the past, if only for a weekend. It doesn’t have to be a place that attracts crowds, although that would be nice. It just has to be place that honors those runners.


What has bothered me in recent years is the way the induction ceremonies have been ignored by the local populace, and the legions of people who will run the next day. After drawing good crowds of maybe a couple thousand in its middle years, the ceremonies drew fewer and fewer fans, until last year there were just a handful standing by to see Johnny Hayes, Priscilla Welch and Amby Burfoot honored.


And that’s too bad. The ceremonies have had some great moments – last year, Frank Shorter’s tribute to Hayes, the first American to win the Olympic marathon, was wonderful; Burfoot and Welch gave terrific speeches, as well; Marty Liquori gave a stirring speech a few years ago – that any running fan, or anyone interested in other people, should have witnessed.


Let’s hope things can get straightened out with the National Distance Running Hall of Fame.  It’s a meaningful organization that’s an asset to the sport and the community.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pitarresi: Great run ends for Hamilton

Hamilton College’s women’s lacrosse team lost to Franklin & Marshall in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III tournament today.


The defending champion Continentals jumped out to a 4-1 lead, then gave up eight straight goals. They trailed 12-6 at the half and 15-9 late in the game before a furious rally had them threatening the second-ranked Diplomats until the final seconds.


So, the Continentals didn’t repeat, but they had another great run, going 16-3 and making their third straight NCAA tourney.


And it's been a great ride for seniors Kaillie Briscoe – Hamilton’s all-time leading scorer – Kate Marek, Catie Gibbons, Liz Benjamin and Allie Shpall, who have been key building blocks in a program that has made a name for itself in the world of women's lacrosse. That quintet had a 65-12 record during their careers and  helped establish the Continentals as one of the powers in the small college game.


So, loss or not, congratulations to coach Patty Kloidt, her players, and especially those seniors.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Pitarresi: I'm a playoff near-no-show so far

I haven’t watched more than five minutes of the NBA playoffs this year, but that’s nothing new.


I’m not sure why, but the NBA has left me cold for years now. I just don’t care very much until the finals, and not all that much even then. The same players I enjoyed as college athletes, I have no time for once they’re in the league. That’s odd, but it’s the way it is.


These guys are great athletes, great players. I’m not convinced they are better players than the guys 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years ago, but they are bigger and stronger for the most part, and they can do ungodly things. Still, I don’t find it all that interesting. It’s probably me, not them.


What I am worried about is that I haven’t watched much of the Stanley Cup, either. That’s pretty strange, because, as I’ve stated many times, you will never see athletes giving it up with more reckless abandon, giving their hearts blood, than you will in the NHL playoffs. It is just terrific stuff, but I haven’t been a part of it. Heck, I wanted to watch Pittsburgh and Washington in Game 7 the other night, had to tune in late, saw that Pittsburgh was up 5-1 early in the third, and just couldn’t watch … especially since I can’t stand Sidney Crosby ever since he beat the Buffalo Sabres in the outdoor game last year at Ralph Wilson Stadium.


Well, there is plenty of time yet. I'm sure I'll get into it.



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pitarresi: Paulus addition a good thing for SU

Greg Paulus is joining the Syracuse University football team.


Good idea or bad?


I see nothing bad here. True, Paulus has not played competitive football since 2004. Who knows if he can shake off all that rust?


If he can, it would be a big plus for SU. The Orange have no proven quarterback. Cameron Dantley had his moments as a starter last season, but was inconsistent. Redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib is an unknown quantity. So is freshman recruit Charley Loeb. What’s wrong with throwing another guy into that mix?


I don’t see much of a problem with the distraction of having Paulus, a former star quarterback at Syracuse’s Christian Brothers Academy, coming home to try football again after four years playing basketball at Duke. It will be a hot topic for a while, then it will settle down, and it will be all about football.


This kid was the best quarterback I’ve seen in 39 years of watching them in Central New York. Having him compete for the starting position at SU can only be a good thing.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pitarresi: Patty Kloidt is a great coach

I think Patty Kloidt is a great coach.


Here’s why:


Well, obviously, she’s won a national championship in women’s lacrosse at Hamilton College, so the assumption is she’s a very good coach to begin with. It goes beyond that. Winning at a school like Hamilton, where the recruiting pool is reduced because of the stringent entrance requirements, isn’t easy in the first place. Winning a national title or even coming close was unheard of until Kloidt’s Continentals did it last year.


But, Kloidt would be a great coach whether she won that national title or not.  Case in point: Her team got horsewhipped by Union 15-4 just nine days ago, losing the right to host the Liberty League tournament to the Dutchmen. Friday, the Continentals defeated William Smith, a team they had barely beaten in overtime a few weeks ago, 14-8, then today they downed Union 4-3 in overtime to ensure another berth in the NCAA tournament.


To me, that’s great coaching, and no mistake. I’ll guarantee you that Kloidt didn’t let her players forget about those earlier games, and I think it is amazing how well she got them to refocus on their goals and what they had to do to achieve them. Hey, they’re very good players, but they need someone to keep them on course. Kloidt does a great job of that.